Victorian leaders have called for calm after angry construction workers and anti-lockdown protesters caused chaos in Melbourne over the past two days, with violent and unruly rallies shutting down major roads.
The ugly riots came after angry protesters stormed the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters in Melbourne’s CBD on Monday, trashing the building and screaming at union officials over mandatory vaccinations and restrictions.
The Victorian government has shut down the construction sector for two weeks in response to the riots and non-compliance with Covid restrictions in the building industry.
The shutdown applies to metropolitan Melbourne, Ballarat, Geelong, the Surf Coast and Mitchell Shire, including government projects such as level crossing removal sites.
It comes as Auckland construction firms re-open at Alert Level 3, and after 235 days of lockdown in Melbourne.
Victoria Police made 62 arrests in response to the “challenging and confronting” confrontations, with between 1000 and 2000 people taking to the streets.
No community members were hurt but one reporter was attacked multiple times and three police officers were injured.
Police Commissioner Shane Patton is urging people to stay away from any future rallies.
Protesters ran into oncoming traffic in a bid to flee from police, as riot squads attempted to thwart the day’s chaotic rally.
Scenes turned violent in the city after tradies stormed and shut down the West Gate Bridge, clashing with police in South Wharf.
Protesters threw objects at police cars and smashed windows, while police drove at the crowd and fired rubber bullets.
The dramatic clashes came after hundreds of people marched through the city before taking over the bridge, where they lit flares, sang rock songs and screamed profanities.
As protesters walked back down the bridge towards the city, they were greeted by riot police, who unloaded rubber bullets and pepper spray.
Some protesters walked into oncoming traffic in the opposite lanes to avoid the barrage, while others fled into nearby bushes.
Earlier on Tuesday, protesters dressed in fluoros faced off with police outside Queen Victoria Market as they tried to return to the CFMEU office for the second day of demonstrations.
Organisers encouraged people attending to “wear work gear”, and said the protests would continue until their demands were met.
Protesters yelled obscene chants while throwing water bottles and swearing at police.
Some protesters could be seen drinking alcohol while others sat down on the road, but police prevented them from getting near the CFMEU building.
Riot police warned protesters to move on or face the use of force.
The protesters made their way to Parliament House, where they were again confronted by riot police armed with ballistic shields.
The construction union vowed to hunt down those responsible for “desecrating” their office during the violent anti-vax protests.
CFMEU boss John Setka said genuine tradies who were involved in damaging the union’s Elizabeth St headquarters would not have a job to come back to after lockdown.
“We’ve got video footage, we’ve identified a lot of people, and there will be consequences out of this,” Setka said.
“I will not tolerate people throwing bottles of alcohol at other people, and damaging union property.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has called the demonstrations “an insult to the vast, vast, majority of tradies” and construction workers.